The world has lost our beloved Prof M Anandakrishnan (திரு மு. ஆனந்தக் கிருஷ்ணன் ), Padma Shri awardee, heaven has gained one more blessed soul. I am speechless on hearing the news. Yet, I feel I must write these few lines for my own closure.
My interactions with “Prof” (as we called him affectionately) has been limited, but every meeting with him had a lasting impact on me. Each interaction was a lesson on life and work. I am unable to recollect another personality in Tamil Nadu who had this many personalities and talents, each one being larger than the other. He was an educator par excellence, he had been a bureaucrat, an able administrator, an officer with the UN, a philanthropist, an institution(s) builder, a Tamil lover, a scientific advisor, a mentor for countless youngsters and many more. Even when he was 90 years old, he never had a dull moment and worked hard every day for the causes he was passionate about – I must admit here, observing him work, I have always envied his alertness and energy levels, he was truly lucky for that.
The first time I should have met him was in the side-lines of the Tamil.NET 99 conference in Chennai, at the time he was the scientific advisor to then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Dr Kalaignar. I was a 25-year-old youngster of no significance, yet my opinions were heard by him during the Tamil Font encoding standardization discussions, remember the committee was filled with stalwarts in the field. This is something that I noticed to be unique to Prof. I am left wondering how he manages to hear the faintest voice, the whisper from the corner of the room – I find it hard to get over my prejudices when listening to others in a meeting.
He was instrumental in setting up and served as the founding chairman of INFITT (International body for the promotion of Tamil language computing) around 1999. I had the honour of serving as the Chairman of the organization in 2010 when under Prof’s guidance we conducted the Tamil Internet Conference 2010 in Coimbatore in partnership with the Government of Tamil Nadu. Accompanying him and participating in the meetings with Ministers, IAS Officers and International Dignitaries were a live professional-conduct workshop for me. At the conference finale, I had the satisfaction of contributing my bit towards Tamil computing by getting the Government of Tamil Nadu to pass a government order recognizing Unicode to be the standard for Tamil encoding, which ended two decades of fighting amongst technologists, and smoothened the way for the usage of mobile by millions of Tamilians – the process of preparing this draft was a masterclass to me (and others involved) by Prof, on how to be diplomatic to a fault and not hurt the feelings and pride of all sides.
In all the volunteer groups I had served with him, he was always the first to take the fall and shield the others unconditionally, he was the last to get the bouquets and shifted the limelight to the rest of us.
If I had to name the top quality in life, I had learned from him, that will be on how to be purpose-driven, like in the famous Mahabharat story of Arjuna aiming at the bird’s eye, and not get distracted with the criticisms or praises.
Lastly, I cherish the moments of being in the committee that organized his 90th birthday celebrations in 2018 and released this book titled “Memorable Footprints of an educator”. You can read the book online here and watch the recordings of the entire event here – Part 1 & Part 2 on YouTube. You will find a lot to learn from his journey of humble beginnings from Vaniampadi (documentary) to the height he had reached through hard work and integrity.
May his soul attain moksha, Om Shanti!